PAX: Cursed to Golf is a clever roguelite reinvention of the classic sport

Cursed to Golf PAX preview

Golf your way out of purgatory

The sport of golf has been remixed quite a bit over the last few years. Games like Golf Story, What the Golf, and even the Mario Golf series have turned the sport on its head again and again. Cursed to Golf takes its own spin, turning golf into a roguelite, and a pretty fun one too.

Cursed to Golf introduces your player character as quite possibly the greatest of all time. You’re in the final rounds of a major championship and poised to permanently ink your name in the annals of history. Then lightning strikes.

A bolt strikes your golf down to the depths of purgatory. There is good news, as a looming spectral giant called The Scotsman informs you: you can, actually, golf your way out of the underworld. And so your journey begins.

It isn’t as easy as driving your way to the green, though. The basics of golf are boiled down to their crucial components. There is a hole you must reach, using a driver, iron, or wedge. Shot power and angle are easy to grasp and master, and there’s no depth; it’s a 2D, side-to-side scrolling view. Making shots felt very intuitive, very fast.

Forever cursed to golf

Every one of those shots has to count, though. Par is not really a metric of good or bad, so much as it’s life or death in Cursed to Golf. Every course starts with five on your Par Count, and ticks down. Run out of shots and you fail the hole, plummeting back to the depths to start anew. Smashing idols along the course can add more shots to the Count though, so routing becomes very important.

Yes, routing. Holes can have multiple flags, obstacles to overcome, and different challenges. Maybe a column of TNT blocks a path, so you’ll need to use a ball to blow open a path. The alternate path might not require a spent ball, but it may then take a more perilous route, with plenty of places for a ball to get stuck.

Ace Cards bring it all together. As you progress through courses, shops and challenges will offer up Ace Cards that act like a power-up. Practice Shot lets you literally fire off a shot that doesn’t officially move your ball forward, but also doesn’t count towards par. It’s extremely useful for tripping TNT or testing out a risky chip. Others let you add more shots to the Par Count or directly deal with hazards.

My favorites were, of course, the more outlandish. Activating a time-freeze card will let you drop a shot at any point in its delivery. So you can arc a golf ball just over where you need it to go—the hole, for example—and then, at just the right time, freeze and drop it straight down. The U-Turn felt like it opened up incredible new strategies; once activated, you can essentially “bump” your shot in a direction after firing it off. So you could, theoretically, slam a ball towards a wall, rebound it off, and then use an extra hop from the U-Turn to navigate up a series of platforms.

Golf platforming

If that sounds a bit like a platformer to you, well, it sometimes is. There were moments in Cursed to Golf where, as I was navigating the level, using physics and tools available to do things like hop across platforms or traverse dangerous areas, it felt like a platformer. The last touch developer Chuhai Labs adds is a little bit of spin, which brings the platforming together.

After a shot’s been fired off, you can add just a little bit of front or backspin on it. It’s tiny and, as developer Liam Edwards told me during my demo, originally meant to help players who kept driving into corners and getting stuck. (I may or may not have done exactly that during my demo too.)

But that last touch puts the cherry on top of the golf sundae, making Cursed to Golf feel like a fun new take on golf. I failed my second hole, thanks to a risky full-send that plunked right into a bunker. And right away, I wanted a second run. I had so many ideas of how I could navigate better, route better using the Birdie Eye Cam, and tackle the hole like a true golfer.

Cursed to Golf is also extremely charming. It’s bright and colorful, with great pixel art filling out the courses. The music is chippy and fun, and for a game about golfing, it’s got some fun humor and gags. It has a cheery approach to sporting out of the afterlife, like a mix of Hades and Golf Story, and it hits the middle point of that Venn diagram just right.

So yes, even at this moment, I’m eager to try my hand at escaping golf purgatory again. I’m sure those shots will work, with the right Ace Cards and a little spin on the ball. There’s no firm date for tee-off, but this golf-based escape will be coming to PC, Switch, and Xbox this summer, and I’m looking forward to another shot at the devil’s green. There’s a demo available on Steam if you’d like to try your hand, too.

Eric Van Allen
Senior News Reporter